The Government has been urged to exempt bed and breakfasts from new laws which ban hospitality operators from refusing customers on grounds of their sexual orientation.
The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, which will come into force in England, Wales and Scotland next month, were approved last week after a last-ditch bid to block the legislation failed in the House of Lords.
Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly described the new equality laws as a "major step forward". But David Weston, chairman of the Bed & Breakfast Association, said that while he welcomed the act on a broader level, he felt that B&Bs should be exempt.
"A lot of small B&Bs are operated from people's homes and for the same reasons that people renting out rooms to lodgers are excluded from the law, so should B&Bs," he said. "We don't want the right to keep people out or to discriminate against them, but a number of very small B&Bs operated by people with strict religious beliefs may be forced to close their business as a direct result of this law."
However, other hospitality operators welcomed the legislation, with Gino Meriano, founder of wedding organiser Pink Weddings, hailing the move as a "fantastic step forward".
"We have been campaigning against the service sector saying no to the gay community for years and this is a great and historical move forward," he said.
But he warned that while the legislation meant operators could no longer turn away gay couples, there was still a grey area in the law regarding civil partnerships.
"Venues can still choose whether to have a licence for weddings or civil partnerships and are therefore effectively still able to turn gay couples away," he said.
by Kerstin Kuhn